Time for straight 'allies' to leave the spotlight
"It's been a big year for allies to get famous, grab a book deal, win awards, maybe pocket some speaker's fees for appearances. Resources that should be going to empower LGBT voices are instead going to enhance the visibility of straight people."
In the last year we have engaged in a side debate over the best ways to change hearts and minds on LGBT issues, particularly in sports. For a few years, straight men were propped up as some of the key faces of the LGBT movement with the assumption that it was with their blessing that other straight people changed their minds on LGBT acceptance. I for one have questioned the validity of that argument; I know my parents' perspective only changed when I came out, not when straight people voiced public support.
Now there's a study that says just that: The only way to change people's perspectives is for LGBT to share their stories. Let me repeat that. It's not that it's the best way, but rather the only way.
[Michael J.] LaCour and [Donald P.] Green demonstrate that simply a 20-minute conversation with a gay canvasser produced a large and sustained shift in attitudes toward same-sex marriage for Los Angeles County residents. Surveys showed persistent change up to 9 months after the initial conversation. Indeed, the magnitude of the shift for the person who answered the door was as large as the difference between attitudes in Georgia and Massachusetts.
Conversely, the study showed that those same conversations between two straight people offered no significant change. In fact, any shift lasted a few days and eventually the person who doesn't support LGBT rights quickly reverted back to her previous beliefs with no long-term change at all.
This is why we at Outsports have focused so heavily over the last year in particular on telling the stories of LGBT people in sports. It's these people, not their straight teammates, who are shifting the hearts and minds of people in the sports world in our favor.
The only effective role of straight allies is to do what Patrick Burke has done. He created the You Can Play project, built it, then handed it off to Wade Davis and other LGBT people and let them drive the direction and conversation. Others like Scott Fujita and Ben Cohen have done the same: open opportunities and let others shine.
Now there is data to back up their belief that this is the only way to make cultural change.